I have a gazillion feelings about my body, but love isn’t one of them.
When I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t see an ugly monster; nor do I want to worship myself as the Goddess of Beauty. Instead, I see something to put clothes on in order to get ready for the day.
No, I don’t love my body. I simply see it as tool to live my life. A good, practical, working tool, like a car, for example. It has all the parts and can drive me from A to B. I must keep it in good condition, but I don’t have to love it.
When I hear I should love my body, I’m quite puzzled that I need to pay it even more attention than I already do. Let’s face it, our bodies – and women’s bodies in particular – have ways to remind us of their existence. Menstruation, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and menopause–not to mention the usual bodily functions–are constant reminders to women that they are prisoners of their own physiology.
We, as society, have a weird relationship with women and their bodies. Either we see them as something impure that needs to be covered lest it invites bad thoughts in men, or we put women on a pedestal and worship them. In short, we either tell women to hate their bodies, or tell them they should love them because it perfectly mirrors the confusion we feel about women in general.
Telling a woman to love her body is idealizing it. It’s making everything about her body–just like calling her “beautiful from inside out” is still about the pursuit of physical beauty, and saying she’s “perfect just the way she is” is still about desiring physical perfection. It’s still telling them how they should feel about their bodies. Maybe it’s time we stopped obsessing so much about women’s bodies and concentrated on their smart, brilliant, amazing minds instead.
The truth is that you don’t have to love your body. Instead, you can make a pact with it–a contract, if you will. I have, and it works like this: I nourish my body, get it moving, feed it delicious meals, and occasionally let it indulge on chocolate. In return, my body does its best to get me wherever I want to go and helps me do whatever I want to do, to the best of its abilities.
Maybe it’s a very cold and pragmatic way to see myself, but it works for me. I treat my body well because if a tool needs to last, it requires maintenance. Just because I referred to it as a “tool” doesn’t mean that it can be treated badly–not by others, and not by myself. I think this very realistic way of perceiving myself is extremely liberating, too. Instead of being too harsh on my body, or putting it on a pedestal, I see myself as I really am–flaws and all.
It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t change anything about my body. In fact, if I could, I would do it in a blink. No, I’m not talking about breasts too big, or bellies too fat. I don’t mean cosmetics. I mean functionality.
It would be nice, for example, to have a body that doesn’t drop things or bump into furniture. It would be nice to have one that doesn’t have sensory issues. But it won’t happen. This body of mine is the only one I’ll ever have, and I have to work with what I’m given. To make this relationship work, we have our little pact.
And work it does. It simply has to. I do what I have to do to keep myself healthy, and then I just move on.
When my children point to my belly and playfully ask me what it is, I can reply without overthinking the meaning of their innocent question: “This is my belly.” That’s all there is to it, really. It’s not ugly, and it’s not beautiful. It’s just a belly.
They laugh and caress it with their little hands. I scoop all three into my arms and hug them tightly. I have better things to focus on than loving my body.